HC Deb 24 April 1963 vol 676 cc194-5
5. Mr. Hayman

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the proposed bye-laws for the Okehampton Range in the Dartmoor National Park.

Mr. Ramsden

I have nothing to add to the answer my right hon. Friend gave my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) on 8th April.

Mr. Hayman

May I ask the Minister whether these proposed byelaws give the Army the power of arrest of ordinary citizens walking through a National Park for the first time, and are the ancient rights of hundreds of venville commoners to be overridden without their consent? Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to arrange for a public inquiry to take place before he reaches any decision?

Mr. Ramsden

In reply to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I do not think that there is any need for a public inquiry. We shall answer all the objections that we have received. With regard to the power of arrest, there is such a power, but it will be used only against persistent trespassers. The idea of this power is to safeguard members of the public who might stray into places where dangerous firing is going on.

We have come to agreements with those of the commoners' interests that we could identify, and we shall discuss similar arrangements with any other body of commoners or so-called venville tenants who establish that their rights are prejudiced by the use of this area for training.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Does not the fact that these byelaws are to be issued show that the area is now really too restricted for modern Army training, and would not it therefore be wise to accede to the request that has been pressed on my hon. Friend for an inquiry into the matter?

Mr. Ramsden

I welcome the opportunity of clearing this up. The area that we propose to use for training and firing is no greater than it has been in the past, notwithstanding the new proposals for byelaws. The byelaws will cover a wider area, but this is to improve arrangements for public safety. It does not involve the wider use of Dartmoor by the Army.